THE COMMUNITY TABLE
Since 2018, The Community Table has been at the heart of our direct project delivery. It is an accessible space where we build, play and connect.
The Community Table is a conceptual framework and physical entity that has evolved out of Art Refuge practice on the ground with people who are displaced. It forms the basis around which both activity and thinking across much of the charity’s direct work takes place. It grew from a response to the urgent issues at stake for people trying to survive on the France-UK border.
The Community Table has also become a response to the bigger picture, the urgent issues of our time. More than ever we need to be gathering around real and imagined tables, talking to each other and seeking creative responses and solution. This is not just amongst people who are like us, but with people from different perspectives, cultures, ideologies, socio-economic and political backgrounds and identities. As such it is one of the tools used by the team - The Community Table Collective - in a range of settings and with diverse audiences and participants.
MAPS, MAPPING, SPACE & PLACE
Maps, alongside other carefully selected materials, play a key role across Art Refuge practice and delivery in all settings, as tablecloths, tools for grounding, memory and witnessing, tracings of journeys and collective imagination. Maps have been exhibited in various settings as works of art in themselves, often alongside The Community Table.
POETRY IN MOTION
On The Community Table, people have written, typed, copied and recorded thoughts, letters, fragments of ideas, poems. Sometimes people have simply typed their name, wanting this to be seen and witnessed. Manual typewriters, with their soothing sound, 'instant print' and need for physical engagement have proved invaluable tools for supporting people in feeling grounded, seen and heard, both in northern France and in Kent.
SMELL AS HOME
Different environments call for different things. In Folkestone, Kent, the team has introduced the Smell as Home project to The Community Table, working with experimental psychologist Emanuela Maggioni, University College London on identifying culturally relevant spices and herbs for connection, memory and witness.
Our box of postcards is carried, re-formed and carefully curated as an alive, collective, intercultural resource. The postcard has been a distinct artistic medium since the middle of the twentieth century, and continues into contemporary art practice. The images range from landscapes to holiday destinations, reproductions of old masters to contemporary artists from around the world, and include images of artworks made by refugees within our work in Calais, which have been professionally printed as postcards. Choosing an image from this wide collection allows for a subjective element and potential connection with a personal cultural narrative which is not imposed from the outside. The postcards inspire new drawings, watercolour paintings and collage in a small contained physical space. They inspired Art Refuge's funding raising exhibition and raffle in 2021: 'Wish You were Here' (image to the right).
CONSTRUCT, FALLING & REPAIR
Over a number of years, people have responded to building with small clay or wooden miniature bricks at The Community Table. This might involve making a makeshift shelter that mirrors their current experience, building a home left behind or a house longed for in the future. On may occasions, the process leads to the building of towers. Sometimes everyone gets involved. Inevitably these towers will fall down, tension is released, and then can start the process of rebuilding and repair.
HOST - HUNDRED OF SMALL TAILS
Ideas evolve at The Community Table over time, in this case HOST - 'Hundreds of Small Tails' - plasticine creatures left on the table in different setting over the past few years.
For Folkestone Fringe 2021 and the duration of the Folkestone Triennial, local people were invited to create a cosy environment and HOST Hundreds Of Small Tails (mini sculptures) sculpted by people seeking refuge in the UK. A number of local shopkeepers hosted the creatures in windows that looked out onto a street. Others were exhibited in a small collection in a local gallery. Throughout the Fringe timeframe, visits were made to the shopkeepers by members of the Collective to ensure the creatures were repaired and looked after, and continue dialogue.
THE COMMUNITY TABLE COLLECTIVE
The Community Table Collective is an interdisciplinary group of artists and art therapists who work on project delivery for the charity Art Refuge, and come together in various constellations for exhibitions, workshops, actions, events and research, as well as fortnightly discussion groups. All members of the collective have a shared commitment to the charity’s core ethos, based upon a participatory and collaborative practice informed by decades of individual and collective experience and skills in the creative industries, socially engaged arts practices, art therapy, mental health, trauma work and psychosocial approaches. Some of the artists have lived experience as refugees. Local artists, activists, academics and others join at different times.